Fox's Anti-Regulations Speed Reader Was Reprimanded By FTC For "False" And "Deceptive" Marketing
Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI
Yesterday, Fox host Neil Cavuto told viewers that the "world's fastest reader" knows "what is really slowing this country down. Howard Berg says it is too many damn rules and regulations. And Howard should know. We've been featuring him a lot on my Fox News Channel show, literally ripping through every page of the federal government's 25,000 plus regulations."
But there might be a bigger reason why Berg has a problem with government "rules and regulations": He was previously reprimanded by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for "false" and "deceptive" claims related to his speed reading products. At no point during his Tuesday Fox News or Fox Business programs did Cavuto note the FTC's actions against Berg.
In the mid-1990s, Berg appeared on television thanks to infomercials selling his Mega Reading system. Berg teamed up with convicted felon and scamster Kevin Trudeau. According to the FTC, the infomercial promised, in the words of Trudeau, that "you'll be able to read almost as fast as Howard. Virtually quadruple, five, ten times your reading speed right now." Berg, meanwhile, claimed it could work for "anyone" and pointed to an alleged letter from a girl with brain damage:
BERG: I have a letter here from a girl who has brain damage.
BERG: Brain damage. She was in a car accident and half her brain stopped functioning. It was electrically dead.
BERG: And she writes. It says that on a coffee break in my word shop, she went three to 600 words per minute. This is someone with severe brain damage. So yes, it works for anyone. And you can't get worse than that.
The FTC, on the other hand, found that Berg's Mega Reading claims were "false" and "deceptive."
"In truth and in fact Howard Berg's Mega Reading is not successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to significantly increase their reading speed while substantially comprehending and retaining the material," the FTC concluded in a 1998 complaint.
"The acts and practices of respondent as alleged in this complaint constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act."
Berg entered into a consent agreement package resolving the allegations. Berg was ordered "not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that such product is successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to increase their reading speed above 800 words per minute while substantially comprehending and retaining the material. For purposes of this Part, 'substantially similar product' shall mean any product that is substantially similar in components, techniques, composition and properties."
As a result of his involvement in Berg's Mega Reading system and several non-Berg products, Trudeau was required to "pay $500,000 in consumer redress and will be barred from making false claims for the products in the future. Trudeau will be required to establish a $500,000 escrow account or performance bond to assure compliance." (It wouldn't be the last of Trudeau's problems with the FTC.)
Cavuto, who hosts shows on Fox News and Fox Business, has featured Berg several times over the past few years. In 2009, Berg claimed to speed read the health care bill and remarked, "to just gut out a system and throw another one in its place with this much complexity - I would expect a series of catastrophic breakdowns."
On Tuesday, Berg appeared on Neil Cavuto's Fox News and Fox Business shows as part of Fox's "Regulation Nation" series. As Cavuto stated in his introduction, the segments are meant to illustrate problems with government rules and regulations and how they affect businesses. But such rules can protect consumers against "false" and "deceptive" business practices. Just ask the FTC and Howard Berg.
Cavuto's Fox News segment with Berg:
Cavuto's Fox Business segment with Berg: